It’s time for my annual wellness exam. In preparation for my doctor’s appointment, I do an annual review of the supplements I take, reading the latest research about them. I don’t take many, and all are because my doctor recommended them. She monitors the levels of these in my blood, and although the science is a bit iffy, I am certainly not taking too much of anything. The question is, should I take any supplement at all?
Recently, Frontline aired an excellent program that brought home the importance of questioning the use of dietary supplements. Although the program was appropriate for everyone, I thought it especially important for people with liver disease. Everything goes through the liver, and after watching this show, I was ready to dump my vitamin D and calcium. However, I often take the advice I give to others, and decided to talk to my doctor first.
Those of you who pay close attention to the issues surrounding dietary supplements may not find much new in the Frontline program. What most caught my attention was how we got into the current situation of allowing little oversight and regulation of supplements. It all comes down to Congress and supplement lobbyists and the cloudy issue of what happens when politicians and money interfere with science. Honestly, if Newton was alive and living in the U.S., Congress might decline to approve of gravity if there was money to be made.
Back to vitamins, and whether to take them, there are many issues to consider, such as:
- If they work
- If they are safe
- If you are getting what the manufacturer says you are getting
- How to take them (so they don’t interfere with other stuff you take, or cause medical problems)
To help me make safe, effective decisions, I subscribe to ConsumerLab. It costs $39 annually, and I’ve used it for so many years now that I sign up for 3 years at a time which works out to about $20 annually. ConsumerLab shows the evidence, the latest journalism, and reviews many products. They have a free newsletter, but access to actual product reviews requires membership.
Back to my decision about supplements. Like many seniors (cringe), I take a multivitamin without iron. (People with hep C or other liver diseases should avoid excess iron unless medically advised to take it.) There is no evidence that a multivitamin has any value. Without evidence, I justify taking the multi saying, it won’t hurt and its cheap insurance. For someone who likes the elegance of logic and science, my rationale is lousy. In fact, it is superstitious, much like tossing salt over my shoulder if I spill the saltshaker. Taking the multi is unlikely to prevent anything bad from happening. So, maybe it’s time to drop the multi; but first, I will talk to my doctor.